The integrative spatial examination and analysis of data from geo-sciences and humanities always was and still is an important part of the interpretation of social and cultural relations within the context of environmental conditions and the dynamically inherent complex of relations between human beings and their environment.
This is demonstrated by the ever growing number of scientific papers in well-respected journals, caused not least by the rapid increase high quality of region-wide and punctual geo-scientific data (as for example Lidar). Another aspect is archaeology’s increasing use of geo-scientific field methods for close and remote prospection (for example geomagnetism).
Accordingly there are increasing demands for the storage, preparation and provision of data. In particular, descriptive data and various methods for the documentation of findings and objects ask for new concepts for the integrative handling and analysis of these data for the use in the humanities.
With regard to spatial and surface data (points, curves and surfaces) methods derived from geo-statistics, geo-informatics, machine learning and pattern recognition and knowledge discovery are commonly applied. This allows the regionalisation of a variety of archaeological data about landscapes, as for example soil quality, workability, and availability of nutrients.
Besides the regionalisation of punctual and small-regional data, these methods provide relevant information for the analysis of observed processes, such as the changing of soils. This analysis of cause-and-effect complexes within their temporal and spatial frame is a central issue of current archaeological research in general and especially of SFB 1070. During its second phase the research centre explores different kinds of materiality and temporality as resource assemblages. Algorithms are not only used in order to identify relevant cultural and environmental variables and their significant links, but also as a support for the exploration of dynamic processes, for example whether the development of settlement patterns is determined rather by socio-cultural or by natural and environmental conditions, a question of central importance in the work of SFB 1070.
From this mesh of interdisciplinary methods and thinking during the current phase of the collaborative research centre five major fields of work arose for project S:
- The creation of a geo-scientific basis, especially basic data about climate, topography, geology, soil and land use.
- The support and counselling of all projects about all geo-scientific and geo-archaeological issues. This includes the introduction of regular geo-data consultation hours, the counselling of individual projects and active collaboration in all project and sector divisions.
- The management of all environment and space related research data, amongst others the setting up and maintenance of a data- and FTP-servers, the preprocessing of data and collaboration in the setting up of data bases in the projects, interface programming and format conversions.
- The education and training of junior researchers of all projects in order to increase their expertise about the use of GIS-systems and the processing of spatial and environmental data. This is accomplished via workshops, fieldschools, and hands-on-training-schools.
- The interdisciplinary linking of research data of the humanities and environmental information with use of techniques of Machine Learning in order to analyse complex cause-and-effect structures.